Safety is first rule of winter driving |

Safety is first rule of winter driving

Gregory Crofton

Even downshifting to stop on an icy road can mean trouble, said California Highway Patrol Officer Wayne Tillman.

“If the speed of the engine doesn’t match the change, it can be just like locking the brakes,” Tillman said. “You should apply brakes gradually and if you feel a slide, pump them slightly.”

Highway 50 is known for its stops and starts. Even with decent tires, a car going 20 mph on an icy road needs about 150 feet of road to come to a safe stop, according to the CHP.

The roads at South Shore are always slick when winter weather hits, but even more so right after a storm when daytime temperatures can hover near freezing before plummeting near or below zero overnight.

“We’ve had a few people (slide) into ditches, but it’s not been too bad,” said Sgt. Jim Watson of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department.

A low of minus 1 degree is predicted for this morning. The anticipated low for Wednesday is 11 degrees.

A low of minus 5 degrees was recorded at Lake Tahoe Airport on Monday, not a record for the date, with the high for the day registering around 31 degrees, said Shane Snyder, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Reno.

The reading of 4 above at the Reno airport was 1 degree below the old mark, set in 1975.

As the snow that fell gets packed into ice by tires, and the cold solidifies lingering patches of water, the best way for drivers to prevent a crash is to make sure their tire treads are in good shape.

“A lot of people overlook if they have tires that are in good condition,” Tillman said. “Depending on the mileage, they may only last one season.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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